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'There's always a car being torn apart': East Columbia neighborhood asks city to address homeless crisis

The East Columbia neighborhood is bordered by Marine Drive, 33rd Drive and Delta Park, three areas notorious for homeless camps, trash and crime.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Frustrations are growing along with the mounting trash, crime and illegal camping in parts of Northeast Portland. This week, KGW reported that the city of Portland and the Port of Portland have pointed fingers at each other when it comes to who's responsible for clearing certain areas near the Columbia River. It’s one example of behavior that has left homeowners in the East Columbia neighborhood feeling ignored.

“We need to keep talking, because the squeaky wheel gets the oil,” said Gary Kunz, chairman of the East Columbia Neighborhood Association.

East Columbia is the section of land just south of Marine Drive and east of the I-5 bridge. Kunz said this month someone stole his car's catalytic converter from in front of his house. He and neighbors can’t go anywhere without driving or walking past trash, abandoned cars and criminal activity happening along Northeast 33rd Drive, Delta Park and Marine Drive. Despite that, Kunz said he has compassion for those camping in the area and recently gave food to a man who asked him for help.

“I'd like to separate the people in need from the crime, from the filth and it's really difficult to do,” said Kunz. “I wrestle every day with — am I enabling, or am I assisting?”

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It's a question many who live in East Columbia would like city and county leaders to ask themselves.

“There's always a car being torn apart, I can't run along the slough anymore by myself,” shared neighbor Susan McLarty. She wondered if city and county leaders would appear less numb to the situation if they were closer to it.

“Have they ever had their catalytic converter stolen? Have they ever had their car stolen?” asked McLarty. “Would it make them respond to us if they went through these things?”

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